Posted in Life As I Know It

Blank Canvases

I must admit that, though my mom died well over a year ago, I haven’t fully dealt with all of her belongings yet. I mean…my sister and I have gone through all that we are aware of, but there were times where certain things got the “to be dealt with more fully later” stamp. One group that got that stamp was all of her art supplies.

Many years ago, my mom shared how she wanted to paint…she felt that she might be decent at it. Given that one of my roles with her was lifelong cheerleader, I took that confession as an opportunity to facilitate that desire. Paints…brushes…an apropos French easel…she had her own personal kickstarter campaign.

Relatively early on in the whole process, she painted a lovely winter scene…and got a lot of positive reinforcement for her work. Everyone who saw it was impressed and complimented her. It should have been a great catalyst to continue exploring her creativity.

But while she did paint some…it was more accurate to describe her as someone who wanted to paint rather than a painter. “Are oils too much work? How about acrylics? Watercolor? Maybe pastels or charcoal?” I would bring home all different mediums for her to try, but many remained untouched. I tried hard to understand what was standing in her way.

She was.

Excuse after excuse would always pop up. “If I had that wall shelf installed, then I would be able to set things up like I want…” Shelf installed…no painting. “I just need better lighting…” Special easel light bought…no painting. Even an art class didn’t do more than help her complete the class project. No matter what obstacle was overcome, for the most part, the canvases remained blank.

“Mom…why aren’t you painting?” She never really answered the question. One day I asked her if the blank canvas made it too hard for her to begin? Was it too intimidating and asking for more than she thought she could do? Did she feel like each attempt had to be something “good”? Yes, she admitted. She was putting pressure on herself to do something good…and that pressure was resulting in doing nothing rather than just doing something.

I encouraged her to just…paint. Just put something on the canvas as practice with no pressure to have the outcome be anything at all. Just…paint.

I could empathize with her because I know the blank page of a writer can feel just as daunting. Just…write.

Ultimately and sadly, she let the blank canvases win. There was no amount of cheerleading or facilitating that could make her face whatever it was that kept her from moving from wanting to doing.

Later in her life I brought her coloring books so that she wouldn’t even have to think of the blank page and only choose the colors, but by that time she could no longer concentrate or keep her hand steady enough to stick with it for more than a few minutes. Her window of creativity was closed.

My mom’s choices in her efforts at painting are a metaphor for too many of her life choices, as well. She often chose the road of inertia rather than risk…and that meant she left a whole lot of life unlived that could have been so much more. Empty, missed opportunities instead of beautiful experiences of color and texture and joy. You may think I’m being hard in my assessment here, but trust me…I knew the woman. The metaphor fits.

This past weekend, I went through her art stuff. There were a small number of pieces that she had worked on over the years, but they were far outnumbered by blank canvases.

Stories that were never told.

And so I decided I’m not going to leave them blank.

Though writing is where I feel most at home, I am going to fill those damn canvases.

I don’t know with what or how, and I guarantee the results won’t be pretty…but at least they will indeed be.

The above photo includes all of my mom’s paintings—except for the winter scene that I mention as her initial try.

Posted in Life As I Know It

Why Are Good Habits So Easy to Break?

I wrote my blog every Monday for over five years…and then I said I could change it up…and I wrote less…until I wrote nothing at all. Granted, this is partly due to time constraints, but if the cliché of it taking 21 days to create a habit holds true…how is it is so easy to break a habit of 5 years and 259 posts? Continue reading “Why Are Good Habits So Easy to Break?”

Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

What Would Get You to Take It All Off?

Last week, my sister took it all off. In front of hundreds of people, she bared herself in a way she has never done before. And she did it for money. If you know her, you’re not too surprised at this behavior. She tends to do stuff like this.

 

hanger

 

Stuff like raising over $1500 for childhood cancer research by shaving her head.

Did you think I meant something else? Sigh. Get your mind out of the gutter, people.

My sister, Theresa, shaved her head last Friday as a way to raise money for St. Baldrick’s childhood cancer research. As a fun incentive for people to donate, the organization (named as a combination of “bald” and “St. Patrick’s,” since the first event was held March 17, 2000) encourages people to raise funds for research by pledging to shave their heads.

 

trying to capture the two of us--and her hair--in one last photo
trying to capture the two of us–and her hair–in one last photo

 

Theresa is a teacher, and her high school has been supporting St. Baldrick’s for a few years. At the very moment she was speaking with a teacher about being a “shavee” this year, another colleague walked into the room and shared that his grandson had to have his eye removed in his battle with cancer. It was a powerful coincidence that fueled my sister’s commitment to participate. Not surprisingly, she chose to sponsor this boy in her efforts. (The boy has since gotten his labs back, and, thank God, he is now cancer-free.)

 

since she is donating her hair, it needs to be in ponytails
since she is donating her hair, it needs to be in ponytails

 

My sister and I hate cancer. (Is there anyone who doesn’t?!) It’s not only taken our dad, but affected too many people that we know and love. And—just too many people, period. It is an insidious, horrible disease—but research is making strides. As the St. Baldrick’s website notes, “In the 1950s, almost all kids diagnosed with cancer died. Because of research, today about 90% of kids with the most common type of cancer will live. But for many other types, progress has been limited, and for some kids there is still little hope for a cure.”

 

quite the transformation
quite the transformation

 

I am very proud of Theresa for “taking it all off.” (I won’t gush much more, as she already accuses me of posting schmaltz.) She not only raised a chunk of money for research, but she was also able to donate her hair to an organization that will use it to make hairpieces for disadvantaged children suffering with hair loss for various reasons. Shaving her head was a double win.

 

check out the hair she is holding in her hand to be donated!
check out the hair she is holding in her hand to be donated!

 

And, in a way, it was also a kind of triple win, as well—at least for Theresa—because her decision to shave her head had another layer of personal impact.

You see, my sister and I both started going gray in our early 20s, and we are now predominantly (and prematurely, mind you!) gray. As I’ve shared before, deciding when and if to cease the coloring madness is not easy. Both (originally) brunettes, if we stopped coloring our hair, we would have to deal with a defined line of brown-to-white until it all grew out. Who wants to look like variations of a skunk tail for months? Not me.

But when my sister committed to shaving her head for St. Baldrick’s, she also decided that she would let it grow back au natural. I found this to be a brilliant plan. No ugly outgrowth! Just new, healthy hair. That is just smart all over the place.

Who knows? It may be the route I take when I decide to make the transition. I will watch my sister’s journey and perhaps it will inspire me to one day do the same. (After all—I have time if I am to follow in my sister’s footsteps, as she is MUCH older than me. You’re welcome, T.)

 

with "Shelly the Head Shaver"
with “Shelly the Head Shaver”

 

Doesn’t she look great?

So far, she is loving it. As she recently shared on Facebook:

Shaving head for St. Baldrick’s – $1,585!
Savings in hair products per month – $17
Time saved every morning – 25 minutes
Startling myself every time I pass a mirror – PRICELESS!

Her bold commitment has also, in a way, set her free.

Of course, when I wrote the title for this post, I was hoping that the salacious nature of it would make you want to read it…

But there is a “real” reason for it, too. Those who shave their heads for St. Baldrick’s are ready to drastically change their appearance—at least for a while—to help the battle against cancer.

What are you willing to commit to? What will move you enough to say, “for this, I will endure some discomfort/pain/sacrifice/risk”?

I know I’m not ready to shave my head quite yet. While I did do the AVON 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer a few years back, I’m not courageous enough to go cue ball like my sister. But understanding what it is that you are willing to “take it all off” for is an important thing to know about yourself, don’t you think?

What will you put yourself on the line for?

If you feel comfortable enough to share in a comment below, please do.

And…way to go, T!

 

All photos are my own or have been used with permission.

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